By Bob Nagy
Representing its most ambitious vehicle design program in decades, Volvo’s all-new 2016 XC90 has been recast from the ground up. Marginally larger and more spacious than its highly successful predecessor, this 7-passenger all-wheel-drive (AWD) crossover SUV brings an elevated level of sophistication to its styling, engineering and powertrain elements while introducing class-leading advances in safety and infotainment technologies. As the first vehicle spun from Volvo’s new scalable product architecture (SPA), it aims to steal share from premium global rivals like the Acura MDX, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Infiniti QX60, and Mercedes-Benz M-Class/GLE-Class. Both the XC90 T6 and its T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid sibling also set peer precedent as the result of their extremely efficient, supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter/4-cylinder Drive-E gasoline engines.
Buyers seeking a contemporary, comfortable and richly appointed 7-seat AWD vehicle that also delivers outstanding fuel economy, exceptional comfort and world-class safety will find much to like in the new Volvo XC90.
Although the new XC90 has grown more spacious, the Infiniti QX60 SUV offers greater overall passenger room while those seeking maximum towing capacity will find it in the Audi Q7. Despite its generous 9.3 inches of ground clearance, the XC90 is still more at home dealing with light-duty trail running than hard-core off-road excursions.
In a word, everything. From its styling, platform architecture and suspension configuration to its potent yet super-efficient Drive-E powertrains, tablet-style Sensus human-machine interface, and advanced safety technologies, the 2016 XC90 introduces design elements that significantly elevate the status of both the vehicle itself and the entire Volvo brand.
The 2016 Volvo XC90 moves a notable step beyond the vehicle it replaces on every dynamic level. Matching a lighter but stronger SPA structure with a new double-wishbone-front/multilink-rear chassis setup...
... tuned to deliver a sportier character with better overall isolation, the new XC90 is more nimble, responsive and controlled whether you’re cruising down a freeway or negotiating a bit of a twisty 2-lane. The optional full-air suspension further sweetens the experience with auto-leveling and automatic ride-height adjustment capability. Both the T6 and T8 Twin Drive SUVs also feature a multi-position Drive Mode selector that tweaks powertrain and suspension settings to optimize economy, comfort or performance. Capable of operating on gasoline, electric-only or in hybrid drive, the T8 Twin Engine has a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack tucked into its center tunnel that can provide up to 25 miles of pure EV range but does not impact any passenger or cargo space.
SENSUS TOUCH CONTROL INTERFACE
Using a 9.0-inch high-definition screen with tablet-style functionality, Volvo’s new Sensus interface sets a benchmark for intuitive operation of the new XC90’s infotainment/climate control functions.
NEXT-GEN FRONT BUCKET SEATS
Redesigned to provide even greater comfort and support, the XC90’s power-activated front bucket seats also incorporate shock-attenuating structural elements that work with its new pre-tensioning seatbelts to help minimize the potential for bodily injury in case of a front impact or run-off-road scenario.
Roomy and elegantly upscale, the XC90’s cabin details include everything from supple leather upholstery and aluminum/wood accents to its new Sensus touch interface, a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and diamond-cut surfaces on the various rotary controls. Some, like open-grain Linear Walnut inlays (Inscription), Nubuck/Nappa leather sport seats (R-Design) and an Orrefers crystal shift lever knob (T8), are model-specific. The 40/20/40 2nd-row bench seat is matched with a more-accommodating 50/50 third tier that offers best-in-class legroom. Each seat can be individually folded flat to increase cargo space from 15.8 cubic feet to a segment-leading 85.7 cubic feet – all easily accessed through a large rear hatch with hands-free activation.
The XC90’s bolder and more sophisticated SUV body lines are complemented by a new face that features a sleeker graphic character with a revised grille and redrawn logo. More expressive front/rear lighting adds visual punch while Inscription and R-Design models feature full LED headlights with corner-following Active Bending and T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” LED running lights. Wheel/tire fitments rise from 19-inch on Momentum models to 20-inch on Inscriptions and 21-inch on the R-Design – which also gets a selection of unique trim elements and offers a bespoke Matte Metallic Blue finish.
All XC90s are comprehensively equipped, complementing a lengthy roster of expected features with premium touches like the groundbreaking Sensus touch-control interface and GPS navigation, a 10-speaker/330-watt audio package, 4-zone climate control with Clean Zone Air Quality System, a panoramic glass sunroof, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Its bounty of active/passive protective touches include Volvo’s City Safety System with Pedestrian & Cyclist Detection and Avoidance, Lane Departure Warning, and new Run-Off-Road protection plus automatic braking should the driver inadvertently turn in front of an oncoming vehicle. Surprisingly, the new XC90 offers just one built-in USB port and has no power assist for its tilt/telescoping steering column.
Descriptively named Climate, Convenience and Vision Packages add even more appeal to the new XC90. These include extras like Surround View Cameras, power-retracting side-view mirrors, and heating controls for the windshield, the headlight washers and the rear seats. Blind Spot/Cross Traffic warnings, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist and Park Assist Pilot are also available as part of option packages. Single options on all models include Four-Corner Air Suspension, a 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system, Head-Up Display, plus an Integrated 2nd-row child booster seat along with Contour Seats in Nappa leather (Momentum only), and carbon fiber accents and 22-inch wheels (R-Design only).
The 2016 Volvo XC90 lineup is fitted with the automaker’s new supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter/4-cylinder Drive-E gasoline engine that makes a stout 316 horsepower and develops 295 lb-ft of torque when burning premium unleaded gasoline. The T8 Twin Engine replaces the T6’s conventional Haldex AWD setup with a rear-mounted 80-horsepower electric motor that sends all of its motive force to the aft wheels. Collectively, the combo yields 400 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque – sufficient to trim the T8’s 0-60-mph sprint time from 6.1 to just 5.9 seconds. Both XC90 SUV variants can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Their Drive-E engines are backed by a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission that helps them earn what are projected to be best-in-class EPA ratings.
2.0-liter supercharged/turbocharged inline-4
316 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/25 mpg
2.0-liter supercharged/turbocharged inline-4 + electric motor
316 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-4,500 rpm
80 horsepower/177 lb-ft of torque
Net Output: 400 horsepower / 443 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: NA
Pure electric range on a full charge: 25 miles
Arriving in showrooms this summer, the 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Momentum and Inscription start just under $50,000 and $55,500, respectively. The sporty R-Design that arrives in October will open slightly below $54,000, and fully loading any version can bump those numbers by $4,000-$6,000. On sale later in the fall, T8 Twin Engine models are expected to command upwards of $60,000 and offer similar upgrade possibilities. Given its lengthy roster of standard features, the new XC90 will hold a solid price advantage against all of its comparably equipped German rivals and be competitive with the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60 as well as domestic alternatives like the Cadillac SRX and the Buick Enclave. KBB.com has not yet established a Fair Purchase for this new Volvo SUV. Historically, the XC90’s resale value has not been as strong as most of its competitors. However, we suspect this comprehensive makeover will enhance its long-term competitive position.